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LAFC 2018 Player Postmortem: Aaron Kovar

Midfield loanee earned his way into more playing time.

MLS: Los Angeles FC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Aaron Kovar was an intriguing addition to Los Angeles Football Club’s inaugural roster. Brought in on a little-used intraleague loan from the Seattle Sounders, the then-24 year old Homegrown, who had shown occasional moments of quality with his parent club, especially in the U.S. Open Cup, was projected to likely be midfield depth in 2018.

And so it started out to be under Bob Bradley. Kovar was a victory sub in LAFC’s second game, but he didn’t make any appearances in league play for the next few months.

But there was one game that appeared to change Kovar’s fortunes, and it was an unlikely one. When LAFC hosted Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund in the MLS side’s first ever international club friendly in May, Bradley emptied his bench and gave nearly every player time. But it was Kovar who truly took the opportunity with both hands, putting in a Man of the Match performance, scoring the opening goal in what turned out to be a 1-1 draw.

It would be overstating it to say that Kovar became a regular after that, but he did get increased playing time, and played considerable minutes in two separate chunks of the season in the summer and fall.

Kovar LAFC 2018 statistics

2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2018 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 11 7 523 0 3 16 5 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 2 183 0 0 3 0 0 0
MLS Playoffs 1 0 14 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 15 9 720 0 3 20 5 0 0

In fact, while it’s hard to peg them as like-for-like midfielders, Kovar seemed to be favored over Andre Horta in the final weeks of the season, with Kovar getting 218 minutes of playing time in the final four games of the regular season to Horta’s 48 (both players made three appearances). It does seem to be a sign of Bradley rewarding merit in giving Kovar more minutes over the course of the season compared to Horta, who was a huge investment by the club but was distinctly out of form.

Of course, the question with the two players is the ceiling. Kovar is four years older, and it’s unclear if he can be a regular MLS starter. Perhaps he can, if he’s given a chance on the right team, and he’s shown moments of ability to turn games, including at LAFC. But Horta’s potential does seem to be far, far higher. Again, it’s not a matter of merely comparing these two players, but it’s not unreasonable to see the distinction between the two in the course of LAFC’s season.

As for the future, that’s unclear for Kovar. LAFC did not pick up the purchase option on his loan, and he is out of contract from the Sounders. That means he could get picked up by another MLS team in the Re-Entry Draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. I think there’s a chance he could find his way back to LAFC as well, although I don’t know that it’s a guarantee. Kovar is in a tough spot, as a player who doesn’t take up an international spot and is affordable on an MLS budget. But can he really break through and take a step up to be a productive starter? He showed improvement with LAFC, just in the space of a year. But the jump from reserve who gets more playing time to a regular starter is a big one, and it’s unclear what’s in store for Aaron Kovar in 2019 and beyond.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!